Hearts and Minds – opening only

The complete story is 11,000 words. Will post the whole piece later.

This is not a story for under 16s.  

The guitar lay on the floor from the night before,
She moved a little closer and we kissed a little more.

It was an obvious rhyme but it was funny and easy on the mind; it also threw a complimentary nod to the past tunes of Harrison and Orbison. He played it: G, E minor, then a D major7. The chord progression was simple, it worked.

David moved toward the window of his apartment. Saturday night, the rush was on, cars bumper to bumper roared down Marlborough Road. Nothing is going to stop them, the drivers roar on to a car park, any park near a bar, theatre or restaurant. He should go out.

The city was always more alive from a distance, vibrant. Down at street level it often failed to deliver, at times it was simply mediocre. A city always waiting to get there, always waiting, waiting.

He moved away from the window and picked up the guitar again. G major – D7 – Em; it sounded better. He sang to himself.

I asked her to go the cinema
I asked her to a dance,
Perhaps I was getting too old for this,
But I thought I’d take a chance.

He burst into laughter, rolled back onto the bed:

I said I’d take her to paradise, after I’d finished my gin.
I wanted to see her naked but she said, ‘ it was a sin!

He lay there for a while, looked at the shadows on the ceiling; then leapt off the bed and grabbed the guitar once more.

He played a C then G and a move down to a D.

Maybe they’re getting in the King’s head
All the rebels are hanging by a thread
The King wants to see them all dead
While he takes their daughters to his bed.

Too serious.

He pressed record on his iPad and played the chord sequence on his guitar: G major – D7 – Em.

He looked up at the clock. Time for work.

The wooden frame rattled as he slammed the door behind him. As David walked through the reception area he glanced up at the a security camera. Last week someone on the radio had said you appear on three thousand security cameras every day in London. He thought, maybe they don’t know about the one in his apartment block. So, perhaps that should be three thousand and one.


A sea wall, a rust red iron sea defence, footprints in the sand, a couple on a park bench, small boy on a cycle, a girl in a rock band, naked man on a painted canvas. The images flashed by on her computer.

Emma was tired. Six hours in front of a screen was enough for one day. She picked up a glass by her side and downed the last of the Rjoca. Perhaps one last view of the slides. She flicked through the photographs for what must have been the the twentieth time. The sequence looked fine but she decided to drop the image of the naked man on the canvas. Too obvious. The client might also have a heart attack. At last the images were in the right order.

She knew what the regular clients wanted before they turned up at her studio. This job was a new guy. She was keen to make his presentation the best he had ever seen. Having seen what he had previously accepted from other photographers she had little doubt that he would like her quick fired montage of photographs.

The phone rang. She took the call. Emma grabbed a pencil and scribbled on a writing pad.

‘What shoe size? Dress size? Hair? Eyes?

It was a client she had worked with many times. A woman who had been in business for twenty years, five years with Emma as her photographer. She always started the phone conversation by saying that she wanted something ‘different, stylish, new, off the wall’. Then she would turn up on the day of the shoot and slowly strip away all the ‘off the wall’ ideas and end up with the same PR shot she had accepted for the past five years.

The same could be said of most of her clients; whenever they turned up at her studio, whatever they had said on the phone, would have been changed and the shoot would take twice as long. Never, almost never, did any brief arrive complete from the one discussed on the phone. Change for the hell of it, change for the sake of change, change as a sign of incompetence. She was tired of her clients ….. but they paid her bills and the mortgage.

The list of changes finally ended, the client seemed happy. She’ll be with Emma next Tuesday. Of course, it would all change by the day of the shoot.

Emma closes the image gallery on her computer. She runs downstairs to the studio floor, checks the electronic flash, changes a camera lens, steps back from the camera and looks at a loosely arranged set. It was far from inspiring. Maybe she should shoot something else. Perhaps phone the model, tell her to not to turn up. She could head for the city or take the afternoon off and grab a few shots of the Olympic Park.

A woman shouts from the top of the stairs.


‘Down here’.

A young woman steps down the stairs. She is tall, six foot, long dark hair.

‘Why have they sent you?’.

‘I’m the best you can afford’, replied the woman.

‘I asked for someone who is five-four, you’re six. I need blue eyes and blonde, you’re green and dark’.

‘I’m close enough…’, said the woman.

Emma laughs.

‘Coming to dinner?’, asked the woman.

‘Can’t. I have a real model coming for a casting’.

‘You’re too reliable’, said the woman, ‘tell them you’re sick’.

‘Ok, can I send the studio bills to you?’.

The woman moved close to Emma and whispered in her ear, ‘you work too much’. She kissed Emma softly on the cheek. ‘If I see an underfed model in the street I’ll tell her you’re ready for her …’, the woman laughed. She then looked at the Bill Brandt nude which was proudly displayed on Emma’s studio wall.

‘You never shoot me like that’.

Emma smiled, ‘I know’, she said, ‘It’s been done so, why repeat it?’

The woman turned and clambered back up the stairs.

See you in the Bleeding Heart in ten’.

‘Ok, you can buy me lunch’.


Alexis pulled a dress from the metal rack. Held it in front of her. Not short enough. She walked further down the long costume rack. She pulls another out another dress. Too boring. Several racks and dresses later she has found a one piece which matches her mood. White, medium length, suitable, fresh, one she had not used before. She slipped the dress into a large bag and walked toward the exit.

The receptionist saw Alexis as she walked through the reception. She looked at

the bag casually wrapped around Alexis’ arm and guessed what was inside.

The phone rang on the receptionists desk. She answered.

‘Fraser’s film hire’. She put her hand over the phone and smiled at Alexis, ‘make sure it comes back in one piece’, she said. Alexis smiled back as she walked out of the building.

She jumped on the northern line and headed home.

Her one room apartment contained her whole life, nothing had been left back at her parents house. She didn’t want to be like most of her friends who kept returning to their parent’s homes. When she had made the move to London she made sure there was nothing left behind to tug at her and drag her back home every weekend. Nothing was tucked away under the bed she still had there.

The white dress she has taken from her place of work hung on the back of the door.

She drank a glass of wine and finished off what was left of the pizza she had shipped in from the night before.

Her black t-shirt and blue jeans came off. Alexis sang in the shower. Her comb slipped easily through her long curly hair. Back in her living room she slipped on the white dress. Looked at herself in the mirror. She was pleased with the choice she had made.

Now with her small bag in one hand and phone in the other she was out the door of her apartment in less than an hour.

A black cab took her slowly into town. The driver had wanted to chat but she slipped her headphones over her head, ‘Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters’ a piano riff and chords intro with a steady bass. It seemed to sum up her mood.


The white dress now hung on wooden hanger inside a wardrobe. Alexis stepped out of the bathroom with a large cotton sheet draped around her. A man lay on the bed.

Alexis had always thought the reveal is all. She moved with an assured manner across the room. A large cotton sheet draped around her. She moved slowly towards the foot of the double bed, stood for a while. It wasn’t the first time she had seen him naked though it was the first time that she wanted him. It wasn’t her intention to soothe him to sleep. She didn’t love him, he knew it; she wouldn’t break his heart.

He looked at her, smiled; was impressed with her confidence. She looked like she was ready to go to a fancy dress party as a Roman slave. He thought she would have added sex and gore to any Roman party, absolutely credible as a slave who had been wronged and was out for revenge. She would easily have won first prize. There were a few red spots on her white cotton sheet. They looked like blood but he assumed it was red lipstick.

She leaned forward onto the bed.

‘Where has the blood come from?’, he smiled. ‘Brought stage blood with you?”.

She looked at the spots of red near her arm. ‘

No,’Alexis answered, ‘it’s real’.

‘You OK?’, he sat up quickly for a closer look, worried. It was only lipstick. He relaxed.

‘What’s the red lipstick called?’

‘Siren’, she smiled.

He lay back on the bed.

‘So, I have to do as you say or the Roman cops will turn up?’, he laughed at his own joke. Alexis didn’t.

She now swayed seductively as if she was on a club dance floor. She looked relaxed, in control, the look of a young woman who had just had her first affair. She was excited, a slight smile. She was high, high from sex not drugs. The cotton sheet almost slipped from her. She grabbed and held it.

‘The reveal is all’, she whispered.

A few hours later she stood at the foot of the bed. She had loved it when he had wanted her. She loved his eagerness, his desire. Now as she stood naked at the bedside he could do nothing. There was no passion inside him now. The novelty of her presence had expired.

She stood for a moment longer; picked up the sheet from the floor and stuffed it inside her travel bag. The sheet flopped gently on top of the envelope of cash he had given her. She moved back into the bathroom and dressed. She casually slipped the white dress over head.

Alexis left the hotel and made her way from Portland Place toward the Marylebone Road. Relaxed, calm, a slow walking pace; she could have been on her way to the office.

Three floors up in the hotel where she had been a dead man lay in a hotel bedroom. Dead in the head. Dead in the heart. Dead in his life. When he got home his wife would probably pretend to laugh at his bad jokes.

Alexis had been out for excitement, prepared to take a risk for sex. She had picked the wrong man. He had been boring. A businessman who could not release his mind from the his office.

In a bedroom on the third floor the man woke up, surprised Alexis had gone. He lay quietly on the bed. She was no longer in the room but her perfume lingered.

The following day Alexis went into work and the white dress was slipped back onto the rack.


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